Summary: The sermon explores how we, as Christians, can be Christ-like at home, at work, or at play. We are children of God first, teaching others about the Gospel by our example. And as children of Christ, even in the midst of life-s challenges, we remember Pau
Our Lives and the Character of Christ
Stephen H. Becker, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
November 18, 2008
Evening Contemporary Service
As I was preparing this sermon, I took a look at the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. Do you know who #1 on the list is? Mr. Microsoft—Bill Gates. He’s worth about $40 billion dollars. At my present salary, I’d have to live another 800,000 years to earn what old Bill is worth today. And #2? Warren Buffet. Well, at least I’d only have to work another 610,000 years to get to his $30.5 billion dollars. And lowly #3 on the list? Well, the brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht, my fellow Germans, the founders of Aldi Supermarkets. Their $25.6 billion is only 512,000 years away for me. I once saw a great bumper sticker that could be my new motto: “I can’t die before I finish all of my work, so I guess I’ll live forever!” Well, then, I guess we know who we are, don’t we? We are the regular people…the people who live their lives without being on the Forbes list. We are people who, like my dad used to say, have to work, in order to eat; we are the folks who live from our paychecks. Or if we don’t work now, because we are retired, we did at one time. Or we are the students are studying to prepare for what? You guessed it! We study to prepare to work. The news for the students here tonight is, guess what, that when you finally finish your education, somebody will expect you to work! When you get your B.A. or your M.A. or your Ph.D., someone will tell you to go out and get your J.O.B.! Work is a part of life. We work in order to live. And you know what, for me anyway, that’s fine. But the Bible, as always, brings another point of view. The Bible puts another spin—God’s spin—on reality. The Bible will tell us that life is more than working so that we can eat. The Bible will teach us how to eat in order to work. So let me ask this question of you tonight: do you work in order to eat or do you eat in order to work? There most certainly is, a difference. Let’s open with prayer…
The Christians of Thessalonica had gotten the wrong idea about work. Having heard that the Jesus might be returning soon, they decided that all they needed to do was sit down and wait. They were thinking, “Jesus is going to return, the end of the age is coming, so, hey, why work up a sweat? Let’s sit down, relax, and wait it out.” The Christians of Thessalonica figured that God would take care of everything, so why bother to work? So to these lazy bums, the Apostle Paul delivered a stinging word of rebuke; instead of being idle, lazy bums, they should follow Paul’s example and remember Paul’s motto: “If a man will not work, he shall now eat.” And that brings us back to the question I asked before the prayer, “Do you work to eat or eat to work?” What this question is really asking, is what is your ethic regarding work? Do you look at it as a necessary evil or do you look at it as an opportunity to live a Christian life? See for me, whether I do my job in the computer field or here, in my ministry, one thing is constant: I am a Christian. And in all that I do, I represent my Savior, Jesus Christ. As I do my work, I think of the Work Jesus did for me. So sometimes I wonder if people get lazy about their work ethics because they either don’t know Jesus, or maybe because no one ever shared with them the meaning of work, especially for a Christian.
Paul says that we work as an example to others. Our work is a part of our witness. He says in verse seven:
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, not did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.”
When I think about a person who worked hard his whole life without complaining about it, I think of my dad. If he were still alive, he would be 83 now. I’m thinking of my dad and his witness about work. As a young man growing up in a German community in communist Ukraine, he was only allowed to complete the fourth grade so that at age 10, he could go to work and bring in money for the family. His own dad was killed by the communists and his mother worked two jobs in the “big city” in order to support dad and his two brothers. My dad knew nothing, other than work, for most of his life. Later he was drafted into the German army where he worked 18 hours a day. Then, after the war, Germany was in a shambles and he worked on farms during every daylight hour. It wasn’t until mom and dad came to America that my dad could at least reduce his working hours to about 10 a day. But still, he worked hard. And he didn’t complain. He didn’t give in to despair nor did he give in to laziness. Dad was proud of his work. For him, his work was his witness. Dad would get up early and come home late, often working overtime, but he would not complain. Instead he would tell us that what he was doing was to make sure that people were satisfied with the quality of his work. His work was his witness. And, unfortunately, it’s not as easy to find this work ethic anymore.